Literary Landmarks and Figures
Literary Landmarks and Figures—A Vision
of Pall Mall—The Paris of the
Forties—Mark Twain’s Fifth Avenue Home—In the Time of Poe—Where Henry
James was Born—The Old University Building—An Encounter in Washington
Square—Clinton Place—Memories of the Past—Irving, Cooper, Halleck,
Drake, Dickens, and Trollope as Shades of the Avenue—A Home of
Janvier—The “Griffou Push”—The Tenth Street Studio Building—The Tile
Club—The Cary Sisters—Stoddard, Whittier, Aldrich, and Ripley—“Peter
Parley”—“Fanny Fern”—James Parton—Some Figures of the Recent Past.
If, of a day of the fifties of the last century, I had been an arrival in London, my first thought would probably have been of a sole at Sweeting’s or a slice of saddle of mutton at Simpson’s in the Strand, provided, of course, that the establishments named then existed, and the dishes in question were as delectable as in later years, when I came to know them in the life. The baser appetite satisfied, the first pilgrimage would have been, not to the Tower, or to Lambeth Palace, or the British Museum, but to Pall Mall, in the hopes of catching a glimpse, in a club window or on the pavement, of the “good grey head” of Thackeray. The first impression might have been disappointing. There was in the spectacles and high-carried chin something pompous and supercilious. The great man, had he noticed them at all, would probably have been quite contemptuous of my admiring glances, his mind occupied with the idea of winning a nod from a passing duke; but I would have seen the “good grey head,” and thrilled at the memory of “Vanity Fair” and “Henry Esmond.” Similarly, in the Paris of that time or of a little earlier period, I would have considered the day well spent if in the course of it I had seen Victor Hugo with his umbrella, riding on the Imperiale of an omnibus, or the good Dumas exhibiting his woolly pate conspicuously in a boulevard cafe, or the author of “The Mysteries of Paris” and “The Wandering Jew” posing at a table in the Restaurant de Paris or Bignon’s, or the fat figure of M. de Balzac waddling in the direction of a printing house to toil and groan and sweat over the proofs of the latest addition to the “Comedie Humaine.” We cannot behold such giants in our generation, city, and street. Yet Fifth Avenue, from the day the first houses pushed northward from Washington Square, has had its literary landmarks, figures, and traditions.
Ten years ago, had you been passing of a summer’s day a house at the southeast corner of the Avenue and Ninth Street, you might have seen emerging from the front door, a figure clad in white flannel, and looked upon the countenance of the creator of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It was, and is, a house of red brick, a house of three stories and a high basement, built by the architect who had designed Grace